Putting our People First
At Quanex, we recognize that our employees are our most important asset, and we strive to do all we can to ensure our workers return home safely every day. Our “What is your Why?” philosophy is at the core of our safety program. Our safety programs emphasize and reinforce our employees’ motivation to stay safe and keep each other safe. While the global pandemic has presented a unique and dangerous challenge over the past two years, we continued to expand on our long-term safety goals while still addressing the ongoing safety concerns introduced by COVID-19.
We continue to focus on minimizing the impacts of COVID-19 to our employees and their families and other community members, and we believe that we have been successful. While we have seen some infection spikes at various locations, we believe that our infection rates have been generally in line with or better than the infection rates at other companies and in our local communities at large.
Many preventive measures have been taken to protect our employees and our business, including:
- We communicate regularly across the plants to share COVID-19 information, including containment measures, vaccination facts, safety tips and opportunities for support of our employees’ physical and mental health as they grapple with the various lifestyle issues.
- We strictly comply with all local and national health orders, laws and mandates, including those related to social distancing, use of face coverings and working from home when feasible. Face coverings are strongly encouraged throughout our facilities and required for all employees and visitors in certain facilities.
- We continue to use social distancing throughout our plants to reduce the chance of spread.
- We require our employees to quarantine if they believe they had recent exposure to COVID-19 positive individuals, or if they are showing any symptoms whatsoever. Before any such employee can return to work, they must either quarantine for an appropriate number of days or obtain a negative COVID test.
- Most of our manufacturing facilities can leverage technology to send daily symptom screening questionnaires by text message prior to an employee starting his or her shift. The daily screening was implemented not only at all facilities where such screening was mandatory pursuant to government regulation, but also at those plants where we proactively determined that additional preventive measures were needed based on our continuous monitoring of local rates of infection.
- Many of our locations have purchased and use antiviral spray applicators to more efficiently and effectively disinfect equipment and break rooms.
- Where possible, overhead, low-speed/high-volume fans have been equipped with UV lights to continuously disinfect the air in the room.
We believe that safety incidents can be prevented through proper risk management, employee involvement, behavioral observations, standardized operations and equipment, and attention to detail. Safety programs and training are provided across Quanex to ensure that employees and managers have effective tools to help identify and eliminate both unsafe conditions and at-risk behaviors. Our safety program is overseen by our board of directors and our executive strategy council, with support from a dedicated Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) Department whose leader reports directly to our CEO. In addition, employee-led health and safety teams help identify, analyze and communicate safety issues within each facility.
Quanex conducts periodic divisionwide safety calls to discuss preventive safety measures. In our Custom Components division, each plant manager shares one safety-related practice that has been implemented in the intervening period so that similar actions can be considered at sister plants. In addition, we have a companywide monthly meeting that includes the CEO and general counsel along with various HR and EHS team members and plant management. During these meetings, the group discusses every recordable injury that occurred during the preceding month. The meetings start with senior leadership’s recognition and acknowledgment of plants with great safety records and achievements and end with comments from the CEO.
As noted earlier, 2021 also saw us begin our journey to improve sustainability through the development of a robust ESG program. This program is overseen by the board of directors as well as a corporate Environmental, Safety and Governance (ESG) team and the newly appointed ESG director. Moving forward, we will continue to develop this program so that we can accurately and timely measure and report on various sustainability metrics and improvement goals.
Accident and Injury Prevention
We continually strive to improve and protect the health and safety of our employees. Through our root cause analysis process, we noticed over time that many of our injuries are related to ergonomics or other body alignment issues. By its nature, manufacturing often results in repetitive use injuries; however, proper form and stretching exercises can reduce or minimize these aches and pains. As a result, we’ve implemented a program at every location to provide on-site physical therapists or exercise physiologists. These health professionals not only perform medical treatments where needed, but also take the time to walk the floor to better understand our practices and meet our employees so that they can make recommendations for ergonomic or process improvements. Because these physical therapists are on-site several times per week and cover various shifts, employees can utilize proper techniques to prevent injuries and more easily receive treatment and diagnoses because they do not need to schedule separate appointments away from work. Most of the EHS staff have also received professional training in ergonomics and they routinely conduct ergonomic evaluations to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries.
As another part of our continuous effort to address ergonomics issues, we have installed automated machinery in seven locations that manufacture window screens, in order to alleviate the ergonomic stress created by the hand-rolling method of manufacturing screens. We continue to evaluate the benefits of automation to reduce ergonomic risks and find new opportunities for automated equipment.
TRIR and DART
Over the past eight years, our Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR) and Days Away Restricted or Transferred (DART) results have steadily improved. Unfortunately, however, our injury rates saw a slight uptick in both DART and TRIR during fiscal 2021. We believe this negative effect resulted largely from circumstances surrounding the pandemic, as we have experienced extensive labor shortages and overtime hours in the face of historically strong customer demand.
Despite the uptick in our rates this year, we remain proud of our safety programs and the improvements we have made over the past many years. Our DART and TRIR rates are still 45% better than 2013, and we have continued to achieve superior employee safety performance as benchmarked against the U.S. Department of Labor’s Injury and Illness Incidence rate (IIR). Quanex’s 2021 fiscal year worldwide employee IIR of 2.4 (which included no occupational fatalities) compares favorably against the current U.S. nongovernmental, private manufacturing sector employer average IIR of 3.3 published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for calendar year 2020.
With regard to workplace fatalities, we have experienced only one fatality in the past 10 years. In addition, that 2015 event did not occur at one of our facilities, as it involved a technical services employee working at a customer’s plant.
We are committed to our employees’ overall health and wellness, and we offer a comprehensive benefits package and initiatives to promote healthy lifestyles. For example, two of our largest facilities have on-site fitness centers, while all of our facilities are tobacco-free. We have typically offered at every facility an annual benefits fair, where employees can learn about health and wellness, and participate in biometric screenings. In addition, we offer free flu shots to employees annually at many locations.
The Quanex Wellness Committee continues to meet on a regular basis and is working on a number of initiatives centered around promoting the benefits of our Go365 wellness initiative, smoking cessation activities and mental health awareness. The Committee has provided our plants with various ideas and methods to incentivize wellness initiatives, including a monthly quiz that can be used to encourage employee knowledge of wellness materials. The Committee has also promoted the expansion of healthy eating opportunities by providing facilities with details on employee incentive programs like farmer’s markets and incentives for healthy food choices in employee break rooms.
Our Go365 wellness program helps incentivize our employees to take a greater stake in their health by giving them the tools and support they need to live healthier lives and rewarding them for it. Go365 goes beyond traditional workplace wellness programs by offering resources for employees dealing with everyday stressors like financial, family and emotional concerns.
Quanex also offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), a free and confidential service that provides useful tools and resources to address topics such as resiliency, emotional well-being, workplace success, wellness and balance, and personal and family goals. The EAP also provides access to legal and financial consultation and work-life services. The EAP has been especially helpful over the past two years as our employees have worked to deal with the added stress and uncertainty growing out of COVID-19.
At Quanex, one of our core values is Continuous Improvement and Innovation, which requires a focus on growing and developing our employees. In 2020, we implemented a Leadership Certification Program in the U.S. administered through the Manufacturer’s Alliance. The program focuses on people leadership skills, with an emphasis on those skills most critical to our industry. Since the program’s inception, we have trained multiple leaders in an effort to strengthen our leadership pipeline across the organization. The program consists of immersive workshops covering a variety of topics, combined with leadership assessments and rich classroom discussions. Participants in this program also have the opportunity to apply their knowledge through practical application projects that improve processes and outcomes for individual teams and the Company as a whole.
In addition, we have partnered with the University of Arizona Global Campus to offer free tuition toward certain college credit classes to allow employees to pursue a degree without incurring debt. Tuition grants are available under this program to employees pursuing associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree programs. Qualified employees are reimbursed for tuition for all eligible courses, technology fees, course materials, prior learning assessment fees and graduation fees. Seventeen employees are presently enrolled in undergraduate or graduate degree programs through this offering and two employees have received master’s degrees.